So. Assuming we can't reanimate Rod Serling and invite him over.
September 21, 2012 8:50 AM   Subscribe

What should I get my mom for her birthday?

My mom's birthday is coming up in a few weeks, and for the first time in my life, I actually have some money (let's say no more than a hundred bucks) to spend on getting her something cool.

Complications: she's very busy and stressed, I live 1000+ miles away from her, she actively dislikes all the "obvious" things. She's also got breast cancer (diagnosed this summer super-mild form, needs radiation but not chemo) and is being extremely secretive about it. She's still working full time (teacher) while going back and forth to her doctor, so I know she's exhausted, but she won't tell anyone because she doesn't want any special treatment or sympathy.

Things I know she will NOT like:

-any sort of spa treatments or massage
-hiring a maid service (my dad takes care of all the housework anyway)
-"experience" things that would drain her time and energy
-gift cards of any kind
-motivational crap
-a party

Things she likes but does NOT need (i.e. adding more to the pile of unused stuff at this point will just stress her out more):

-relaxing bath products
-kitchen accessories

Things I know that she DOES like, but I don't know how to frame a gift around it:

-sci fi/thriller stuff, even if it's campy (she LOVES MST3K, Twilight Zone, Hitchcock...)
-looking for deals online (she's an Amazon Prime junkie) even if she doesn't buy anything
-vegging in front of the computer (I don't know what she does aside from the shopping, but I know that when I was a kid she was obsessed with that Myst game, but then our computer crashed and her progress got lost and even though she brings it up all the time she's never gone back to it) She's not really computer literate, though.
-playing with her iPad (she's got a first generation or whatever you call it)
-her book club (we have very different tastes in books, and even so, she doesn't have time to read anything other than her club-assigned books)

Cliff's notes:
-not into "girly" things
-likes geeky stuff
-doesn't have a whole lot of time to devote to learning something new

So...are any of you like that? Or know someone like that? What would you like for a birthday present?

posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
How about this Myst 10th Anniversary Edition?
posted by chickenmagazine at 9:01 AM on September 21, 2012

Would she use an Xbox? Not all of the games are crazy/shooty - Portal 2 is basically one puzzle after another. I'm also slowly discovering all of the other nifty stuff you can do with one - streaming content from Vudu, for example.
posted by jquinby at 9:04 AM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

There is a Myst app, so how about an iTunes giftcard with a note about the app and some similar games of that type?
posted by hmo at 9:05 AM on September 21, 2012

does she have a netflix subscription?
posted by dpx.mfx at 9:05 AM on September 21, 2012

If she liked Myst, she might like a membership to Big Fish Games. There are lots of casual games with pretty good story lines. $6.99 buys one game credit per month, and you can probably buy her credits that she can use on her computer or iPad.
posted by elvissa at 9:06 AM on September 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

If she's an Amazon Prime junkie, she may already have one, but as a reader (and even a book lover), my Kindle has changed my life -- and in illness, not holding a heavy book/being able to futz with the font size, is a godsend. (I also like it much better than reading on an iPad but YMMV) And if she's already using Prime, she'll get a book-a-month rental.

(Note: My mom and dad were both on record (but unknown to me) as anti-e-Reader, but when I got my mom a Kindle for her 60th birthday, it made ideas for my dad's 65th present much easier because they've been fighting over hers ever since.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:19 AM on September 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

Does she have a Kindle?
posted by theredpen at 9:19 AM on September 21, 2012

If you go with hmo's suggestion, here's a list of some point-and-click adventure/puzzlers for the ipad. Sounds like the kind of games she'd like, and that sort of thing is great to lose yourself in in a waiting room. I personally loved the Monkey Island games and Broken Sword, and 1112 sounds amazing.

Unfortunately, I believe the RealMyst ipad version is only for later ipads.

Your mom sounds awesome. My best wishes to her and to you in this hard time.
posted by AmandaA at 9:20 AM on September 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

I have sent "fruit flowers" which is fruit cut and arranged into floral-shaped arrangements.

Plants vs Zombies for the iPad? Ticket to Ride for the iPad? Buy the Audible versions of some of the books she likes (get help from dad there)?
posted by tilde at 9:29 AM on September 21, 2012

First, you are awesome for doing this. I'm sorry your mom is going through this difficult time.

How about some ear buds and the audio versions of her book club books? If she's exhausted and someone is taking her to dr appointments, audio books can be excellent to kill time on the drive and in waiting rooms. I know when I'm not feeling well, I don't even feeling like talking sometimes.

New pillow or linens for her bed. When you're sick and exhausted where do you want to be all the time? Making her bed a haven would be a wonderful gift. sells good quality high thread count Egyptian cotton sheets and pillowcases.

Your Mom might like to know: Amazon Prime members can now watch free videos on their iPads.
posted by toastedbeagle at 9:34 AM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hey, guys. I'm the OP.

HOLY CRAP A KINDLE. That is an excellent suggestion. I am so getting her a Kindle. It's one of those things she would never, ever buy herself but I think she would love.

Now, because I thankfully have plenty of time (and know basically nothing about Kindles), what do I need to know? (I'll be getting her the cheapest one that shows the ads.) Do they come pre-loaded with any obnoxious crap like computers do? Are there any cool books (resources or something?) I can put on there so she's got content right out of the box?

Essentially, this question is now: pimp my mom's Kindle.

posted by phunniemee at 9:35 AM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have a few friends who got the Kindle with the ads and LOVED it because they were often deals on BOOKS YOU MIGHT WANT TO READ -- so that's going appeal to her deal-hunting side. And she'll definitely want to know about the Kindle Daily Deal! I don't know how/if you can load that up before you give it to her, though.
posted by kate blank at 9:44 AM on September 21, 2012

Mine came with a dictionary preloaded. You could give her an electronic gift certificate to Amazon so she could go shopping right away for the bookclub book she's on. I would buy her a case or sleeve. Make sure you get the right size -- there are many different Kindles out there now. If you look under the "order" button on the right when you're getting the $69 Kindle, there will be little boxes to add on things like cases -- just do it there so it's easier to get to the right one (this, I think).
posted by theredpen at 9:46 AM on September 21, 2012

RIGHT NOW subscribe to the email list or Facebook feed They post lists of free Kindle books daily.
posted by toastedbeagle at 9:48 AM on September 21, 2012

Sorry, I meant the "Add to Cart" button from the $69 Kindle page. Also it looks like you have to order a power charger separately, which is in that same set of additional items you can include.
posted by theredpen at 9:49 AM on September 21, 2012

Kindle is a great idea. I second the need to buy a case that is meant for the Kindle. It will protect the Kindle when your mom starts to carry it every where.
posted by Coffee Bean at 10:23 AM on September 21, 2012

If she likes shopping online, but doesn't buy anything because she is being practical, a gift card might work, as it will allow her to do something she really enjoys.
posted by Vaike at 10:25 AM on September 21, 2012

Are you absolutely sure she wouldn't like a party? Sometimes people say they wouldn't like a party, but then when you throw them a surprise party, they end up feeling very happy about it.

Does she like any kind of special food products, such as gourmet chocolate, etc.?
posted by Dansaman at 10:32 AM on September 21, 2012

Buy your mom a dodocase to go with the kindle. By far the most elegant case you can get for a kindle. I broke mine 4 years after purchase and they replaced it for free - no questions. They are awesome.

You can inscribe the inside of the dodocase (comes with an old school library checkout sheet) and she can cherish that for a long time.

If you can afford it, get her the kindle without ads. Once you give her the kindle and set it up for her, you can gift books directly to her account.
posted by special-k at 10:43 AM on September 21, 2012

Buy her a Kindle!
posted by DarlingBri at 10:50 AM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hooray! My brother was able to go 50/50 with me, so we're getting her a kindle, a few starter books, and a really sweet case. This question had to be anonymous for logistical reasons, but I would best answer the shit out of all you guys. Thank you!
posted by phunniemee at 11:36 AM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

When I first got my kindle, I read all of the old stories I read as a child, things like the Anne of Green Gables stories, that kind of thing - and they were almost all free. There are a LOT of older books that are free, or very cheap, so if she likes to read down memory lane, this is a nice addition.
posted by thylacinthine at 7:54 PM on September 21, 2012

Ugh, I meant to also recommend the kindle case that lights up, from Amazon. It's very smooth and light, and the built in light is great for reading in low light when you don't want a lamp turned on.
posted by thylacinthine at 7:56 PM on September 21, 2012

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